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This Week in Fastpitch

DATES TO REMEMBER
April 3: Next USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25
April 3: First regular-season USA Today/NFCA Division III Top 25
April 4: First USA Today/NFCA High Scholl Top 25
April 10: Next USA Today/NFCA Division II Top 25

For tournament dates and team schedules, check the NFCA Calendar.

PRESEASON'S OVER -- IT'S CONFERENCE TIME: After a couple months of traveling around the country and playing in tournaments, Division I teams are now settling into conference play. The SEC began conference play two weeks ago, most conferences started last week and the Big 10 and Pac-10 begins this weekend.

FAU CRACKS TOP 10: After a couple weeks at No. 11, Florida Atlantic moved into the No. 10 spot in this week's USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25. Florida Atlantic posted a 6-1 record last week, and five of FAU's six wins came against No. 19 Iowa and No. 23 Minnesota. Freshman Candice Freel (17-2, 1.22 ERA) was named Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Week.

GOLDEN HURRICANE OFF TO BEST-EVER START: During the nine-year history of Tulsa softball, the most wins in a season was 24, the longest winning streak was four and the Golden Hurricane had never won a tournament title. That was before the 2002 season. Tulsa has won or shared five tournament titles in 2002. The Golden Hurricane are currently 29-3 -- five more wins then their previous best -- and they still have more than 30 regular-season games scheduled. And Tulsa just embarked on a 17-game winning streak, which was snapped Wednesday against No. 9 Oklahoma. Freshman pitcher Ami Day was named Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week, becoming the third Tulsa player to earn WAC Player or Pitcher of the Week honors.

BIG WEEKEND FOR LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE'S MCMURTRY: No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette may have been swept in a three-game series at Arizona, but Lady Cajun third baseman Becky McMurtry had a fine series at the plate in Tucson. The junior batted .444 (4-for-9) in the series and three of her four hits were home runs. All three homers came off of last year's Honda Award winner Jennie Finch, who had allowed only three home runs all season previously. Speaking of Finch, her winning streak is now at 58.

OSU PITCHER KEEPS HUSKERS AT "BAY": Oklahoma State pitcher Lauren Bay set a school record with 19 strikeouts in a nine-inning 3-2 loss to No. 4 Nebraska Saturday. The following day, she struck out eight and held the Huskers to three hits, but suffered a 2-1 loss. Earlier in the week, she recorded 14 strikeouts in the Cowgirls' 4-1 victory over Kansas.

BIGTIME TURNAROUND FOR CAVALIER OUTFIELDER: Virginia junior Ruby Rojas hit over .400 last season, but got off to an uncharacteristic .208 start this season. She made her way back toward the .400 range again by hitting .733 (11-for-15) in six games last week to raise her average 85 points to .293. More than half of the hits were for extra bases (four doubles, two triples).

CLARION'S WALDMAN "DIVES" INTO SOFTBALL SEASON: Clarion junior outfielder Jessica Waldman took to the softball field for the first time this season and made quite a "splash" as she reached base in each of her first eight plate appearances. She collected five singles and three bases on balls in her first two games against Shippensburg and Millersville before suffering an 0-for-2 "belly-flop" against Millersville. The reason Waldman joined the team 18 games into the season (as well as the reason for the diving references) is she had just finished competing for the Clarion swimming and diving team, which placed seventh at the NCAA Division II national finals. Waldman captured two All-American diving honors at this year's championship to give her four for her career.

FAMILIAR FACES RETURN TO D-II TOP 25: While the 2002 season has featured a number of teams making their first-ever appearances in the USA Today/NFCA Division II Top 25 (UC San Diego, Gannon, Georiga College and State, Western New Mexico), a few perrenial powers return to this week's Top 25. Cal State Bakersfield and Truman State are tied at the No. 16 spot, while West Florida, which was ranked in the preseason poll, returns at No. 25.

OZARKS JUNIOR SHINES: University of the Ozarks pitcher/third baseman Leigh Thompson had an exceptional weekend both on the mound and at the plate. In a four-game American Southwest Conference series sweep against Le Tourneau, Thompson posted a 2-0 record with one run allowed in 12.0 innings (0.58 ERA). At the plate, she had three three-hit games and batted .786 (11-for-14) for the week.

UNION'S MURRAY CONTINUES WINNING WAYS: Union (Tenn.) pitcher Rachel Murray is one-third of the way toward a fourth-consecutive 30-win season. Murray, a senior from Herrin, Ill., is currently 10-2 and she picked up career win No. 100 on March 1. Last year's NAIA Pitcher of the Year, she surpassed the 1,000 career strikeout mark this season. Meanwhile, her pitching mate, sophomore Leah Gronberg, is 10-1 and was named TranSouth Pitcher of the Week.

TALLAHASSEE CC -- TWO SPORTS, SAME MILESTONE, SAME DAY: March 9 was an historic day for Tallahassee Community College athletics. The Tallahassee CC softball team recorded the 400th victory of the program with a 2-0 victory over Coastal Georgia CC. The win was No. 13 for first-year head coach Lori Goodart, while the first 387 victories came under Maria Mendoza, who coached the squad from 1993-2001. Later that day, the Tallahassee CC baseball team recorded win No. 400, all under 11th-year head coach Mike McLeod.

MILESTONES: College of New Jersey head coach Sally Miller recorded win No. 200 on March 22 in the Lions' 5-0 win over Mary Washington ... Arizona's series-opening 6-2 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on March 22 marked the 900th career win for Wildcat head coach Mike Candrea ... Michigan State head coach Jacquie Joseph, who became the Spartans' winningest coach earlier in the month, reached the 400-win mark.

 

EXTRA INNINGS

 

Monmouth junior Elissa Connell batted .692 last week and hit a game-winning two-run homer against Central Connecticut State ... North Carolina junior Quinn Porter, who entered last week with three career home runs, belted three homers last week, including two round-trippers in a 9-4 victory over Michigan State ... Florida State junior Brandi Stuart entered this week with home runs in four of her last five games ... Massachusetts senior Ashley Bakken stole five bases to move into third place on the UMass career list with 67 stolen bases ... Colgate's Dorothy Donaldson set a school freshman record with her sixth home run of the season ... Senior Lyndsi Harworth helped lead Minnesota-Duluth to a 6-2 mark last week with 10 RBI in eight games, including a four-RBI performance in an 8-0 victory over Massachusetts-Lowell ... Kennesaw State senior Sue Coggles had a pair of four-RBI games against Limestone and Shaw ... Arkansas-Monticello senior Heidi Martin had three four-hit games last week, including a 4-for-4 performance in a 4-0 loss to Division II No. 1 Nebraska-Omaha ... Texas A&M-Kingsville senior Maria Guttierez posted a 4-0 record with 39 strikeouts in 27.1 innings pitched last week ... Southern Illinois-Edwardsville junior RyAnn Spann tossed a pair of complete game shutouts to extend her scoreless string to 28 consecutive innings ... USC Spartanburg senior Jessica Adkisson came within one hit of a perfect week, going 12-for-13 for a .923 batting average. She went 4-for-4 in both games of a doubleheader against UNC Pembroke ... Gannon sophomore Heather Ford tossed a one-hit shutout over then-No. 20 Indiana (Pa.) to extend her streak of 42.1 innings without allowing an earned run ... Freshman pitcher Christine O'Brien picked up three wins and a save to help lead Emory to a 5-0 record at the Roanoke Tournament over the weekend ... Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) sophomore Jessica Cobillas drove in 10 runs in seven games last week ... Pacific Lutheran senior Shannon Fritzke hit .727 (8-for-11) with four home runs and 12 RBI in four games, including a two-homer, six-RBI performance against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.